The championship is done and dusted. Ireland reign supreme for the third time in six seasons. Next weekend will see the grand slam on the line in London, but who, apart from the champions, had a Six Nations to remember or, equally, forget.
Here we review the winners and the losers from the 17th Six Nations Championship.
Cool, composed and clinical in their execution, it could not have gone much better for Joe Schmidt’s men. Survived an early scare in Paris and dispensed with the flimsy challenge of Italy in Dublin.
Wales posed some serious questions, but were battered into submission. Scotland arrived on the back of an impressive dismantling of the Auld Enemy in Edinburgh, but left as most sides do from the Aviva Stadium, with more questions than answers.
Schmidt added emerging talents like Jacob Stockdale, Dan Leavy and James Ryan to bolster his squad. In Johnny Sexton and Conor Murray Ireland have the best scrum-half/out-half axis in the world, and are deservedly now a giddy second in the world rankings.
Predictions of their demise proved well wide of the mark. They have been competitive in the extreme, and were unlucky not to have scalped Ireland on home soil. While they were thwarted in Edinburgh, they deservedly got the expected points against Italy and really showed resolve to shut down England last Saturday.
Maxime Machenaud adds a real guile and thrust to the side, and his kicking has been top class also. There seemed to be a real togetherness about Les Bleus at present, and despite many reservations about Jacques Brunel’s coaching ticket they are starting to look like a good team again.
Currently second in the table, and will stay there if they can outgun France. Whatever else you can say about Warren Gatland and the Welsh, they are a nightmare to play against. Were denied a clear try against England, which would have changed the course of the game, and gave Ireland plenty to think about in Dublin.
They hammered the Scots and with a bit of luck could be chasing a grand slam next weekend. Not bad for a side that was said to be showing signs of serious decline.
In a word, dreadful. The wooden spoon specialists have added another to their growing collection. Just what has Conor O’Shea added to the Azzurri? They are the only real blot on the Six Nations landscape. Four games, four hammerings and a guaranteed bonus point for every side in the competition. It’s difficult to find a positive, although they did hit Ireland for three tries.
The game is stagnating in Italy. Even the brilliant Sergio Parisse seems to have lost his luster, and it really is time to call the Italians ashore.
Scotland had their bluff called in Dublin. They arrived after spanking England and left pretty red-faced. The Scots started the competition as a dark horse for the title, but were obliterated by the Welsh. They struggled to put France away at home, but the hype returned after they flattened England. Ireland in Dublin was always going to be the acid test, and they flopped miserably.
The revolution will have to be put on hold. The jury is now very firmly out on Scotland’s so-called progress. They simply have no punch upfront, and remain frustratingly inconsistent.
Shambolic at times in Paris, and seem to be playing from distant memory. It is now certain that last season’s defeat to Ireland has left some deep scars. England look low on confidence right now. Needing four tries in Paris, they could only muster a late consolation score.
George Ford has been anonymous and Owen Farrell again strangely subdued. Slow at the breakdown, they used to at least provide a physical threat, but even that has dissipated. Will have to beat Ireland next weekend to retain any shred of credibility for next season’s World Cup. They came into the tournament seeking three in a row and may yet get one, of the losing variety.